Q. My sister says her best friend got breast cancer because she (her friend) is an angry person. Could this be true?
A. No. While it's been demonstrated that emotions can influence the nature and course of illness, it's a far cry to say that they cause cancer. Cancer is such a complicated condition that, in my opinion, it is unlikely that any one thing will cause it.
There are some things, such as severe exposure to radiation or known cancer-causing substances, that will result in most exposed persons contracting the severe illness. Amazingly, though, it doesn't happen in all situations. Who develops cancer and who doesn't is the subject of intense study right now. Additionally, if anger did cause cancer, I think we would be seeing significantly higher rates of cancer in our country than we do at the present time.
Q. Please explain the term mind-body medicine?
A. Anyone whose mouth waters at the thought of their favorite food, who gets goose bumps or butterflies in the stomach from fear, or whose ears burn and turn red in anger experiences firsthand what mind-body connections are. Mind-body medicine attempts to use these nervous system (your brain and your nerves) connections for beneficial health effects.
For example, blood pressure and heart rate can be lowered by simple relaxation techniques. When these techniques are practiced over and over until they are like conditioned or automatic responses, blood pressure can be lowered over an extended length of time, sometimes permanently.
Q. How can I lose weight?
A. Volumes have been written about this subject. If you could be successful at losing weight by what I write in two paragraphs, I think I'd qualify for a Nobel prize. However, successful weight loss requires patience and commitment: the patience to develop and follow what will likely be a lifelong way of eating and exercising, rather than a diet to follow for a brief period of time, and the commitment to stay with it when your faith in your ability to succeed seems to disappear. The key is a realistic plan built on a series of achievable steps, rather than one or two huge leaps. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Henry Hochberg, M.D. is a board certified family physician with a special interest in wellness and natural approaches to health care. Send your health and medical questions to: Ask Dr. Henry, c/o Woodinville Weekly; P.O. Box 587; Woodinville, WA 98072; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.